Digital Citizenship: Meet Julia of 551 East Design

Dear Students,

For the middle school kiddos, I teach a Digital Citizenship class. In addition to topics about online safety and savvy,  I want my students to acquire 21st century learning skills. I ask them to articulate what they like, what they enjoy doing and do it. I want my students to be entrepreneurial, expert and passionate. Julia is a great example of that passionate, productive person. I tell my kiddos to be producers, not spectators. Kids are usually better than grown ups at finding what they like to do and do it. Julia likes what she does. And I like to look at what she makes.

Anthropologie Inspired Acid Washed Mirror

Take a look at Julia’s page to see a good example of an e-portfolio. I like how an ordinary person uses the internet to showcase amazing talent and passion. I hope this series inspires you to contribute to the global community from your own area of expertise

Chalkboard with Doves

Without further adieu, meet Julia:

How has your work changed you?

I’ve been a perfectionist my whole life and I feel like I spent most of my teenage and young adult years, limiting myself- because I was terrified to fail. When I found my first pieces to refinish and posted them on my blog, I lay in bed that night freaking out that I was going to fail. I remember the first comments I got on them and how they helped me to see that I could create something beautiful and if I failed, I could sand it down and start over.  That’s why I love going down to my garage and getting my sander out and transforming something that no one wanted anymore, into a piece that has new life. It reminds me that just because I might not always be perfect, I can always become better.

What inspires you?

EVERYTHING! Seriously, I know it drives my husband crazy when we’re out and I run over to a dumpster and pull a flaking paint chip off because I love the color so much. (Don’t worry, I sanitize my hands. :))

Finding inspiration isn’t about following a trend. I think we often feel that we need to look to others for inspiration. If I sat here and said that I haven’t been greatly influenced by others I’d be lying. But what I’ve learned over the past year is that I have the ability to inspire myself and that when I look too often at others for inspiration, I lose sight of my talents and ability. I really believe that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for having good ideas and then we talk ourselves out of trying them.

What is your greatest find?

We found this desk at a flea market in Utah. I was really intrigued by the inlaid panels on the top, but it was NASTY.

When I started hand sanding the grime off I became absolutely giddy about the diamond in the rough we had found.


My other favorite piece has to be this bohemian influenced vanity.
When we started sanding it down, the acid green started to show through. The contrast was so fantastic we went with it and finished the piece off with some antiquing glaze.
What aspect of your work do you like best? 
Probably my favorite part is finding a piece and imagining what I am going to do to it. What colors I’m going to use, what hardware to chose. The possibilites always seem endless. 🙂 And I love love love going through my paint deck and reading the color names and imagining what I could do with them.
Who are your influences?  
I am always so grateful for my husband and parents being my biggest cheerleaders and fans. I could not do this without them.
 My biggest influence is a quote I found awhile ago.


 The reason I love this simple phrase so much is that it embodies everything I love about what I do.
I’m obsessed with finding gritty, old pieces of furniture that no one wants and with some work and love they become pearls.
And the reason I’m so obsessed with it is because I feel like with each piece I finish, I become a slightly better person, a better mom, a better wife, and a better me.
I’ve had to learn to trust my gut, be patient and literally watch paint dry, to overcome my fears off failing and to let go and just try something new.
Thank you so much to Kerry for asking these questions and letting me be a part of her blog!
Feel free to stop by my place any time and see what were up to. 🙂

I had to close the post with my absolute favorite piece by Julia. Her Winston dresser.

From the 21st Century,
Mrs. Kenney

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